Writer's Attack on Law Barring Release of Gun Trace Data Based on Bad Premise

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Laws don't come into being out of the ether. There's always a reason they come into being, something they're meant to prevent.

Whether they work or not is a matter for discussion, as is the validity of the claim over what a proposed law is really trying to prevent, but a lot of measures were created for legitimate reasons.


Take laws like the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The law was created to protect gun makers from lawsuits stemming from actions conducted by third parties that happened to use the companies' products.

Likewise, a law barring the release of tracing data was meant to protect gun stores from similar stupidity.

And a recent piece seeks to undo the latter, but the writer trying to sell the need for that law to be repealed is pushing a faulty narrative.

Specifically, how did an AK-47-style weapon find its way into the hands of Barnes, a convicted felon who wasn’t legally allowed to own it? Behind this shooting, and thousands more across America, there is an unseen accomplice: the seller. A frequently cited study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that 90 percent of guns used in crimes can be traced to just 5 percent of firearms dealers. Often, it’s white dealers in the comparatively affluent suburbs who are illegally selling weapons to convicted felons in the so-called inner city. Police have no trouble going after those dealers when one of their own is shot. In 2015, for instance, two Milwaukee officers won a $6 million judgment against a suburban dealer who negligently sold the handgun used to wound them. It should be simple for regular citizens, like Sandra’s family, to seek accountability from the suppliers of weapons used to kill or maim their loved ones—right? 

I added the emphasis on this point, but there's some context beforehand I should add. It starts by talking about the murder of a child, a 13-year-old girl, so people should be a bit emotional by this point. Especially as the killer was found, but he invoked his Fifth Amendment right, so no answers were coming.


Following this, the writer mentions how the NRA fought to make it so gun tracing data can't be released to the public. The logic, such as it is, follows that now the gun store that sold the gun illegally is being protected by this law pushed for by the NRA.

With the bit bolded above, it's clear that the author wants people to believe that this is intentional, that white gun dealers from the affluent suburbs are illegally selling guns to criminals.

Except, he never presents any evidence supporting this. In fact, the gun used in the homicide he tries to use to frame this entire story was originally sold in Vermont, then somehow ended up in Milwaukee.

Yet is he right? Are suburban gun dealers illegally selling guns and putting them in the hands of inner-city criminals?

No, it's not.

According to the ATF, about 1.6 percent of guns used in crime were trafficked from a licensed gun dealer. Another three percent seem to come from "gun shows, flea markets, and auctions," which most likely means private, face-to-face transfers that occurred at those places but may in theory include other FFLs.

Still, that's a tiny portion of the total number of FFL holders in this country, and unless the author is trying to claim that all of them are in suburban areas and illegally selling guns to inner-city felons, that's quite a stretch.

Especially considering how many gun stores you'll find in an average suburb.

But that line onf "reasoning" is evidence of something else, and that's why gun tracing data isn't public knowledge.

This writer would gladly vilify the gun store in question, paint them as singularly responsible for the young girl's death, and open them up to a lawsuit for something they're not remotely responsible for.


Yes, a felon got the gun used, but far too often, gun stores were sued even when they did everything right. We don't know that they didn't do everything right in this case, either, because that doesn't advance the anti-gun narrative being spun as somehow the answer to the nation's gun violence woes.

The author wants this law repealed so gun stores can be sued, arguing that a "name 'em and shame 'em" approach, coupled with lawsuits, would curtail gun trafficking.

Yet, as noted above, fewer than two percent of guns are trafficked by FFLs in the first place. Those that do are guilty of crimes. Shouldn't they be prosecuted rather than sued? They usually are, for the record.

But then again, the media that demands to be taken seriously predicated a lot of their argument on an outright falsehood.

I can't imagine why trust in the media is at an all-time low. It's an absolute mystery.

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